- Social constructivism in public alternative education
- Larry Johannesen (author), Colleen Haney (Thesis advisor), University of Northern British Columbia (Degree granting institution)
- The central idea of social constructivist thought is that knowledge is not objective but characterized by interpretation. Because knowledge is seen as deriving from individual interpretations of reality, knowledge is subject to change. This understanding contrasts with the present transmission approach taught in public schools. If knowledge is individual and socially constructed, then teachers employing the social constructivist approach in the classroom may be able to move education toward a more pluralistic and inclusive model. Interestingly, it seems that in public alternate education classrooms, many teachers may have avoided the traditional model of school, in which rewards and penalties dominate student-teacher relationships. A focus group research design was used to explore teacher-student relationships in public alternate schools, focusing on the use of social constructivist principles and practices. Data were collected through five focus groups, four groups of students and one group of teachers. All participants were drawn from public alternate schools in northern British Columbia. The results of the focus group study indicated that public alternate teachers rely on some components of a social constructivist approach to teaching and learning. For example, students have been provided with a student-centered learning environment. Findings also reveal that a strong relationship has developed between the teachers and the students in these alternate schools. It seems important for alternate school teachers to become aware that they are exercising some social constructivist learning practices so that a common approach and purpose can be employed in all alternate settings. The implications for counsellors using a social constructivist approach to counselling is discussed.